More gruel
Why Republicans cannot govern

Why Republicans cannot govern

A new post at Forbes explores the mechanics behind Republican legislative failure. It compares the fantasy narratives that drove the Pizzagate shooter to the bizarre delusions that animate Rep. Lamar Smith’s campaign against climate researchers. In short:

It is easy to use delusions to obstruct and destroy. Building something is hard. Building something valuable means thinking about consequences and confronting weaknesses in an ideological framework. Building something invites consequences. Republicans cannot govern because Republicans lack any respect for facts. Tilting at windmills is much easier than constructing them.

Nothing remarkable for consistent readers here, but it will be interesting to see the reception at Forbes.


  1. Anthony Scaramucci, Donnie2Scooops new communications hire, gives us quite the contrast with people like our friend Chris. He deleted a series of inconvenient tweets, but of course nothing is ever truly expunged from the Internet. Those tweets revealed someone who was at least talking the rational talk on things like climate change. But when he faced his moment of truth, he decided to do a complete 180 and debase himself. Truly the biggest problem that the GOP has is too many Anthony Scaramuccis, and too few Chris Ladds.

  2. This is somewhat off topic, but there is a sign that is being displayed on many homes and businesses in central Seattle. It is somewhat relevant to many of the topics discussed in this blog, so I thought I would share it:

    SCIENCE IS REAL water is life
    In Religious Freedom

    i do not know who or what organization is distributing it or any background. There is no identification or information on the front.

  3. Why Republicans Cannot Govern: Because they are not even slightly interested in governing in any sense beyond protecting property rights. Aside from a powerful military (for protecting property rights), cutting taxes (for protecting property rights), deregulation (…property rights), and mass incarceration (…PR) they have no vision of a role for government. They have no use for the idea of promoting the general welfare. They have no use for even the idea of society. As Margaret Thatcher said, “There is no such thing as society.” The concept of family values, Joe Bageant observed, means “my family is valuable, yours isn’t.” Or, to quote John Kenneth Galbraith, “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

  4. I agree with your Forbes article and in the absence of a real foreign/outside existential threat we are accosted with phony ones:

    Fake News
    Terrorism (of the foreign variety)
    Voter Fraud
    Illegals taking our jobs
    Government taking our firearms
    Renegotiating “bad” trade deals to return manufacturing jobs
    Minorities are shot by police because they are criminals

    Inventing new realities is what this WH is all about. Something is or isn’t not based on empirical data but on what they say it is and they have their own news outlets spew it out as reality. I know in my heart Chris, you are right and the facts will eventually bite us but sitting around waiting for that is what led to two unnecessary wars and acceleration of global warning. I don’t see any foreign existential threats to our republic, but the self inflicted wounds keep piling up. Some patients never die of their disease but they can still can bleed out.

    Karl Rove:
    “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” (Ron Suskind, NYTimes Magazine, Oct. 17, 2004). I think this is the Republican blueprint.

  5. Glad to see the four truths back in print, and on a larger platform.

    I wonder if there’s a fifth one?

    5(proposed)). Pro-market and pro-business are distinct positions, often disjoint as well.

    Thinking about the GOP in their trust-busting days when I thought of that. (And that particular point could be made to Clinton-and-beyond Democrats as well.)

  6. More on the GOP masterplan to disenfranchise voters. ALEC is hosting Republican legislators and their corporate sponsors at their annual event held in Denver. Of interest is a draft of legislation to repeal the 17th amendment that would allow state legislators to select their own senators. Here’s the proposed language:

    “The “Draft Resolution Recommending Constitutional Amendment Restoring Election Of U.S. Senators To The Legislatures Of The Sovereign States” is scheduled to be debated by ALEC’s Federalism and International Relations Task Force in Denver.

    The resolution reads in part:

    Section 1. The seventeenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

    Section 2. Senators shall be elected exclusively by the State legislature, upon a majority vote of legislators present and voting in a joint session. If a vacancy shall exist for more than one hundred-eighty days, then the Governor shall appoint the Senator to serve the remainder of the vacant term. This procedure may not be modified by state initiative or referendum.”

    While Trump sucks all the air out the room, the plotters scheme.

    1. Interesting, the Koch Brothers and their dark money friends never stop scheming.

      On the positive side, 19 states have now passed resolutions calling for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Citizens’ United decision. That is half of the requisite 38 and is being driven by the people. Many if not all of the resolutions have been by initiative.

  7. Want to share this great story from The Rolling Stone on Sen. John McCain. We really can’t read enough about true American heroes – they are so few, and McCain stands out as you will readily learn. In the current GOP, who can you envision that would be as principled and brave if in a similar situation when they are failing so miserably at being principled and brave with far less to lose other than their elected offices? Those of us who have actually participated in protests understand full well how little we are willing to suffer for the causes we champion….remembering the Selma March, the great D.C. protest against the Vietnam War, and so many others. Average Americans have much to be grateful for men and women who have put their bodies and careers in harm’s way to stand up for something that is greater than themselves.

    1. I have a friend who lives there half the year and she loves it. She’s a liberal and said that governance is so common sense in its approach and that there is little overt division and more collegiality. Guess that’s what being thousands of miles from the USA mainland can accomplish!

  8. If you are correct, WX Wall, it will be interesting to watch the Freedom Caucus play regarding Paul Ryan – for whom I have less and less respect. Until the dissolution or fragmentation of the Freedom Caucus happens, life is going to be pretty miserable in the House for those who are genuinely interested in doing their jobs.

    The destruction to long-held democratic institutions is impacting every aspect of governing. Consider the attacks on the CBO for its analysis of the House and Senate health bills. Paul Ryan denigrated their report in yet another effort to kill the messenger. I’m happy to see the CBO fight back (FWIW), but the lengths to which Republicans are willing to ignore, disparage, change any aspect of governance that doesn’t support their agenda is deeply concerning.

    “Top Republican legislators have spent months now attacking the Congressional Budget Office. House Speaker Paul Ryan derided the agency’s Obamacare numbers as “bogus,” speaking to reporters at an event in Massachusetts Thursday. The CBO directors are fighting back. All eight signed on to a letter Friday to raise a ‘strong objection to recent attacks on the integrity and professionalism of the agency.'” (

    This is unprecedented. Then we also learn that in the new federal budget, there is a proposal that would allow any federal employee to be “fired at will”. And that the POTUS is inquiring about his pardon power and how he can limit the investigation scope being conducted by Special Counsel Mueller.

    Nothing is sacred to Republicans as they bend democracy to serve the conservative agenda. Nothing. That, to me, is more alarming than any Russian intrigue.

  9. Even if I didn’t agree with the sentiment, I would find these to be well-crafted sentences:

    1) Climate change is real and it is caused primarily by human activity.

    2) Human beings evolved from simpler life forms, and the same evolutionary process shapes all living systems.

    3) Abortion is a complex issue because it involves two legitimate liberty interests in conflict with one another.

    4) Race still skews economic outcomes in the United States.

    Such writing skills!

    1. A greater concern for me are reports that Trump’s lawyers are looking for legal justification to disrupt/dismiss the Mueller investigatory team. First they discharged Preeet Bharara and his team, then Comey, now Mueller? And no whisper of obstruction of justice from Republicans?

      1. Mueller fights back. I’ll say this for him, he’s one cool character. Reported by CNN:

        “Special counsel Robert Mueller has asked the White House to preserve all documents relating to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort had with a Russian lawyer and others, according to a source who has seen the letter.
        Mueller sent a notice, called a document preservation request, asking White House staff to save “any subjects discussed in the course of the June 2016 meeting” and also “any decisions made regarding the recent disclosures about the June 2016 meeting,” according to the source, who read portions of the letter to CNN.
        The preservation request is broad and includes text messages, emails, notes, voicemails and other communications and documentation regarding the meeting and any related communication since then.”

      2. The Sessions leak is an obvious ploy by TrumpCo to try and force his resignation, or give an excuse for firing, thereby allowing trump to appoint someone who will fire Mueller. Trump is pissed at Sessions right now who didn’t take the clear cue last week to resign:

      3. [R66] made an accurate and interesting comment. Rump is *terrified of Mueller” and he is terrified in general at this point. Its coming at him from all directions. The momentum is building. Fast.

        This is not a position of power or influence.

        Trump is watching his shanty house of cards with the Russians (Putin) collapse in slow steady motion. Shady deals Trump has made have been in the works for decades. Putin couldn’t give a more happier shit about Trump. The Russians have more than he does in terms of sheer billions, maybe more, they have and are making off the US. Best of all for Putin, he’s made major (understated) headway into the US influence and election process and will continue full speed ahead because Putin is now IN the very mechanisms of our democracy.

        I saw this on another site and thought it was a good summation.

        “Trump is basically useless to Putin with so much scrutiny and exposure. Trump is probably starting to realize this. Putin got what he ultimately wanted and will turn on Trump any time that suits him.

        Rachel (Maddow?) said it best Friday night. Trump is reportedly “going nuclear” with recent events. She couldn’t say it enough or more clearly. And she was right.

        This is the state of the leader of our country.

        When this is the sustained mindset of our Commander and Chief, the administration cannot sustain itself.

        I hate to see the negative Nellies giving in that nothing will come of this and Trump will escape responsibility. It’s not going to happen.

        —He will fall!

  10. Sorry,
    Dog with a bone here and can’t let go of this story. So, the piece on the 230million dollar fraud and money laundering case filed in 2013 by Bharara then settled by Sessions for 6 million without an admission of guilt continues to drip…may be linked to the meeting of Don Jr.

  11. A good piece about how we liberals can be annoying:

    tl;dr: After winning large parts of the culture wars, liberals have overreached by going after ever smaller vices (non-organic hamburgers?! Tsk! Tsk!). This moralizing over ever more trivial cultural differences overshadows our big-picture agenda (e.g. economics, etc.) in the minds of the working class voters we’re trying to attract. In a sense, we’ve become the insufferable moral majority-types we blamed the religious right for being in the 80s/90s.

    I especially like how he mentions that even within the moralizing, the positions we advocate imply minimal change for urban, college-educated people, and maximal change for rural, non-college educated people. For example, red staters aren’t supposed to buy SUVs, and should be using public transit anyway, but how come we don’t tell coastal urbanites to stop flying so much? How much extra carbon is needed to vacation in a South American jungle vs. camping in the local state park?

    For all the eco-consciousness we may espouse, the average subway-riding resident of NYC uses far more energy and has a far larger carbon footprint annually than the average Hummer-driving resident of Dallas, mainly because the heating required in the winter swamps whatever energy the New Yorker saves by taking the subway. So if we’re going to tell people the way to save the world is to abandon rural areas and move to dense, walkable cities, how come we don’t also tell everyone in the northeast to move to the sunbelt?

    1. I read that Barro piece, and think he’s still missing something essential. This comment, which I can’t attribute, comes a little closer:

      “Especially over the past decade or so, these people have increasingly been told that their deeply-held views are not only wrong, but make them bad people. And, being humans, their reaction isn’t to rethink their lifelong worldview and change their attitude, but rather to dig in and say “fuck you.” They know they are “supposed to say” that they are ok with gay marriage, and black lives matter, and all that, because if they don’t they are going to be called stupid, redneck racists by people on TV and in print media. So they have changed what they’ll say out loud, or at least to whom they will say it, but haven’t changed their beliefs. And Hillary and the democrats are exactly the kind of people that would judge them harshly for their views, and Donald Trump and the republicans are the kind of people who don’t. So they are voting republican, no matter how big of a clown Trump is, because at least those people don’t piss all over my fundamental sense of self.”

    2. EJ

      I’ve heard this argument a lot and I don’t buy it.

      If someone says “I might have agreed with you, but you’re being mean to me so instead I’m going to become a fascist,” then the best thing you can say about that person is that they are setting their own hurt feelings ahead of their desire to do good in the world, which is pretty much the definition of self-centredness. (That sentence sounds too long in English.)

      In some cases, it’s worse than that: this person wanted to become a fascist anyway, and was just waiting for an excuse.

      1. Nobody is arguing (well, somebody might be) that the Trump core’s reaction to arguments and criticism isn’t, for lack of a better term, deplorable. On the other hand, it cost us an election, and will have negative consequences for something like 99% of people.

      2. ” they are setting their own hurt feelings ahead of their desire to do good in the world”

        You’re absolutely right. Psychologists even have a term for it: denial and a defense against change.

        Given how prevalent it is, (basically universal, although it can vary in extent) we can either acknowledge that we’re not going to change that defense and figure out how to craft a message that works around it, or keep losing. Politics isn’t about what’s right or fair; it’s about what gets you to 51%.

      3. May I suggest a different turn of phrase than your “Politics isn’t about what is right of fair, it’s about getting to 51%”?

        Winning in politics isn’t about what is right or fair, it’s about getting to 51%.

        To my last breath I will defend my belief that politics should be about what is right and fair, while clearly understanding that winning is how the process is scored.

      4. Mary-
        You’re right. Winning is about getting to 51%. But the reason to invest the time and resources to win should be to do something right and fair for the country. And therein lies the tension, since plenty of people focus so much on winning, they forget why they even want to win.

        I’m always reminded of the story of someone asking Lincoln during the Civil war whether “God is on our side?” and Lincoln responding “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

      5. There was a time when winning and working towards what was fair and right was more prevalent. We agree this is no longer the case – as the narrow agenda of the GOP attests. I understand that if we’re going to engage politically, it is wisest to do so smartly – it does no good to arm oneself with clubs when facing an opponent with a gun. However idealistic this may be, I do not believe the end justifo9es the means when the means are narrow and self-serving. Even as I watch in dismay the lack of organizational skill of the Democrats at the national level, that doesn’t blunt my belief in the values the party stands for. Execution is another thing and this was illustrated in the fact that traditional parts of the Democratic base did not turn out for Clinton (nor Sanders, in the south).

  12. In addition to the strategic errors discussed in the Forbes piece, Martin Longman has a good analysis of tactical errors that Trump and Republicans made when they decided to try to enact their agenda without Democratic votes. Basically, Trump should have realized from watching the Freedom Caucus undermine Speaker Boehner (who was forced to go to Democrats to pass the debt ceiling, for example) that he was not going to get Republicans to come together. Instead of starting off with, say, an infrastructure bill that could have gotten some Democratic support and then working from that, he crammed them with the Muslim Ban, Neil Gorsuch, and a one-sided repeal and replace bill. Now he’s not going to get Obamacare repeal or tax reform, or much of anything else. And how the Republicans are going to get a debt ceiling increase without D support, which they will not get because they no longer have to protect the President, is anybody’s guess.

    1. EJ

      The coming debt ceiling vote is, to me, the acid test of American politics.

      If the Democrats shut down the government over it, then the two parties are indeed as bad as one another.

      If Democrats do not shut down the government over it, then it means they can still be trusted to be the adults in the room, and everyone should bend their backs to ensure that every election is a Democrat landslide.

      As a human being, I express my sympathies to the citizens of the American Republic that such events have happened. As a scientist, I’m excited for a chance to see empirical data that can settle this discussion.

      1. How big a ransom you think democrats should pay to get to be the grown ups? There’s a lot of mischief that republicans are notorious for adding to a bill to raise the debt ceiling, and if so, it might be a little too hard line to ask democrats to deliver whatever ransom that rebublicans demand in order to be labeled the responsible ones.

      2. As a general rule, it’s the responsibility of the majority party to pass the debt ceiling. In the recent past, Democrats in the minority felt obligated to contribute votes to prevent the backlash from hitting President Obama. Theoretically, Democrats should support a clean increase, but they ought not to be enabling Republicans’ bad behavior if they can avoid it, and there’s no need for Democrats to protect President Trump from his own party’s stupidity.

      3. There are few places where Democratic votes will be needed by Republicans. The debt ceiling is one. I have always believed this should be approved as the funds have already been allocated via the appropriations process. The difference now is that Republicans have invited no Democratic participation in the process. I have very mixed feelings about this but the huge increase in defense spending and “le wall” alone make me pause….as do the cuts to all the programs vital to services for the American people. Tough call.

      4. Your empirical data will soon be available. Fall deadlines for federal budget, raising debt ceiling, plus, the tight legislative sequential deadline of the reconciliation process makes timing critical. Of course, when you don’t hold public hearings, do all your work in a back room and limit participation in the process to only a few members of your caucus, there may be more problems than just those emanating from Democratic MOC. Democracy is intended to be a debate and consensus-driven process. Clearly, Republicans have decided this gums up the works and they are hell-bent on a dictatorial approach. Only time will tell if it works for them.

        Of great concern to me is what is being orchestrated re disenfranchisement of voters. From the creation of the Commission on Voting Integrity (or some such name) which will provide useful data for gerrymandering and purging of voter rolls, to drastic cuts to the budget for the 2020 census, Repubicans are working assiduously to compensate for the expansion of a more liberal society – Millennials, etc. If you haven’t seen this article, you may find it foreboding.

    2. The Dems will vote to pass the debt ceiling. Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s politically advantageous for them for 2 reasons:
      1) You can be sure they’ll extract *something* from the Republicans for it. Probably ameliorating some of the social spending cuts they have planned in the budget.

      2) Forcing Ryan to seek Democratic votes will further split his party members, driving the moderates and conservatives further away from each other and also weakening Ryan as the Speaker (remember, this is what forced Boehner, a far better dealmaker than Ryan, to resign).

      In the end, Dems gain nothing by voting against the debt ceiling raise and actually gain a lot by letting Ryan know he has those votes if he wants them, as long as he meets their terms.

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